An Interview with Steven Rappaport
Producer of Southern New Jersey's '60s Band, The Redcoats
It's still a rarity for recently discovered, unreleased songs by '60s garage bands to get the full blown release treatment. A few that have, include the Electric Prunes "Lost Dreams" CD and Lance Records/Sundazed's upcoming Driving Stupid album that will be both in vinyl and CD. It's even more uncommon, however, when unreleased songs by a totally unknown band see the light of day. In order to commemorate Dionysus Records' release of the "Meet The Redcoats - Finally" CD, The Lance Monthly tracked down producer Steven Rappaport and asked him to not only introduce us to the band, but to provide additional insight to the unanswered questions found in the liner notes. A special thanks goes out to Steven for his fascinating Redcoats' history contribution.
[Lance Monthly] After 35 years, what led to the Redcoats material finally being released?
[Steven Rappaport] I found a cassette from the mid-sixties that had a dozen Redcoats' songs on it. It sounded pretty bad, but I decided to see what source material I could extract from the tape and then digitally process it to make it the best quality it could be. To my surprise, all the information was there just waiting to be extracted. If you heard the original source cassette and the final version you'd be amazed at the difference - as I was. I always loved the Redcoats' material and wanted the world to have an opportunity to hear it. When I realized the twelve songs sounded good enough to release, I shopped the songs to a couple of appropriate labels. Dionysus picked it up.
[Lance Monthly] What exactly is your relationship to the band? How did you first meet them?
[Steven Rappaport] I produced seven of the songs on the LP/CD. The Redcoats are still my friends. I met them through my cousin, John Spirit - the leader of the band. John and I had had a Top 20 single in 1963, "Martian Hop," and he was a BIG Beatles fan. They needed a producer. Since I produced "Martian Hop," they asked me to produce them - which I was thrilled and honored to do.
[Lance Monthly] Where was the band from?
[Steven Rappaport] Everyone, including me, comes from Southern New Jersey. Zack Bochelle was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. He was a great, sweet, young man. A few months ago he and I met for the first time in 35 years, when I was able to give him a copy of the LP - finally. He is still a great and sweet man. He's a very talented author, songwriter, and singer. Zack's brother Randy was only sixteen when I knew him. I always liked Randy, but he and I didn't hang much together, so there's not much I can say about him. Randy and Zack still live in the same town. John Spirit was the drummer and occasional singer (although not on any of the twelve tracks released on the CD). He was the songwriter, the inspiration for the group, and my first cousin. He is a totally good and super-talented human being. Mike Burke was the lead guitarist, occasional singer (on "Baby Don't Go"), and songwriter. He was super cool looking, and a HOT guitar player. And he was quiet - just what a lead guitarist ought to be. They were one hell of a group.
[Lance Monthly] It's obvious that the band's main influence was, of course, the Beatles. "You Had No Right," especially, is a great Fab Four flavored tune. Did the Redcoats consider any other band an influence?
[Steven Rappaport] Not really, although it's obvious from listening that their influences were generally Merseybeat - not just the Beatles. "You Had No Right" is very similar to "Help," of course, but "Another Took her Place" reminds me of the Searchers; "Baby Don't Go" reminds me of the Kinks; "The Dum Dum Song" reminds me of Herman's Hermits; "Back To His Door" reminds me of the Dave Clark Five; and "Love Unreturned" reminds me of the Everly Brothers, who were an important influence on the Beatles. Most of the others remind me of Beatles tunes: "Words Of Wisdom" reminds me of "Let It Be"; [and]"Opportunity" reminds me of "Penny Lane." "Sunny Man" and "Sing A Song" should be sung by Ringo.
[Lance Monthly] Do you recall the circumstances leading to The Redcoats' single, "The Dum Dum Song" b/w "Love Unreturned." What year was this?
[Steven Rappaport] 1965. The single was on a small label but I don't remember anything about the session.
[Lance Monthly] As you've noted, and reportedly at the labels urging, "The Dum Dum Song" is very Herman's Hermits-ish, down to the Peter Noone cockney accent. Did the band resent the label dictating it's musical wishes upon them?
[Steven Rappaport] No. There was disappointment, but not resentment.
[Lance Monthly] Do you recall anything in particular about the eight Redcoats' songs that were recorded but whose master tapes have been "lost forever?"
[Steven Rappaport] They were wonderful songs, equal to the quality on the current CD release. Some of the titles were: "Patterned The Same,""Day That We Feared," and "Top Of The Day" (the only song on which John sang lead).
[Lance Monthly] Reportedly, the Redcoats recorded an album for a major label under an assumed name - but were not allowed to record any of their own material. Can you tell more about this?
[Steven Rappaport] They recorded for RCA as The Sidekicks, and had a #55 national hit, "Suspicions," in 1966. It was a great song written by John. It should have had a "Rubber Soul" acoustic feel to it, but RCA gave it a big orchestral sound. It wasn't bad, but it could have been much better.
[Lance Monthly] Were you involved at all with the Sidekicks album?
[Steven Rappaport] I had no involvement with The Sidekicks' album. I assume that it was RCA who gave them that name.
[Lance Monthly] Why did you part ways with the Redcoats?
[Steven Rappaport] I went to Europe for six weeks in the summer of 1966. It was foolish of me and insensitive to the Redcoats' needs. When I returned, they had signed with a manager who wanted another producer.
[Lance Monthly] Did you have any association with this new manager - either prior to leaving or after your return?
[Steven Rappaport] The liner notes on the LP/CD call the manager "Madam X," because we say that she did not really help the group. We are not looking for a possible lawsuit, so we are not identifying her. I had no association with her.
[Lance Monthly] Did any of the Redcoats remain in the music business after the band disbanded?
[Steven Rappaport] No.
[Lance Monthly] Are you still active in the music business at all? If so, how?
[Steven Rappaport] I'm producing a hybrid talk/oldies show called, appropriately enough, "Let's Talk Oldies". Check out my web site at http://www.letstalkoldies.com, and my show at http://www.wetalkoldies.com